In the days before Baryshnikov and Balanchine, one man dominated 20th-century ballet: Vaslav Nijinsky, the star dancer of Ballet Russes, whose precise leaps and intense commitment to character set a high bar that still applies today. Nijinsky and Ballet Russes founder Sergei Diaghilev were lovers, but when Nijinsky married a Hungarian woman on tour, an enraged Diaghilev dismissed him from Ballet Russes, forcing the performer to set out on his own. The stress of managing his now-deteriorating career prompted his descent into mania; he was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1917 and spent the rest of his life in and out of asylums. Slovenia’s Mladinsko Theatre imagines the famed dancer’s last days in Nijinsky’s Last Dance, which it presents at the Mead Theatre Lab in conjunction with the National Gallery of Art’s ongoing Ballet Russes exhibition. Like many of the great ballets, this performance draws on elements of fantasy to tell its story, but the result here is decidedly eerie.
The play runs Aug. 26 to 30 at Mead Theatre Lab at Flashpoint, 916 G St. NW. $25. (202) 315-1305. culturaldc.org.